Driving in Spain

I’ve driven in America a few times, but all the junctions are so big, there’s very little to worry about (except you can sometimes turn right on red). I’ve also motorbiked around Europe, but that’s always been with friends, and as anyone that’s driven around Europe knows, very few rules appear to apply to two wheeled vehicles. This was my first trip properly driving on the wrong side with a larger vehicle, and I was a little apprehensive.

Spanish Speed Limits

This is far more complicated than it should be! First issue is that that the speed limits in Spain changed at the end of January 2019. Also, before then it was a bit vague as to what class of vehicle The Van was. So anything you read, you’ve got to check the date. Thankfully motorhome (‘autocaravana’) classifications are now based on weight. The Van is less than 3.5t, so it follows the same limits as a car. This is 120km/h max on dual carriageways, 90km/h max on single carriageways (even when the signs say 100 because they haven’t been updated yet!) and 50km/h in urban areas… except where posted, because there are lots of speed signs. Most junctions and sharper corners have multiple speed signs, counting you down on the approach. Larger motorhomes have the same limit as trucks.

The Van’s speedo – the km/h read-out is dinky and is VERY hard to read in sunlight!

… All of which is totally irrelevant because the locals DO NOT stick to the speed limits ANYWHERE.

Toll Roads

Many of the best motorways around Spain are tolled. They are generally seriously over spec’d, very well kept and fast. But they aren’t that cheap, roughly €1 for 10km. However, many of the toll roads replaced roads that often weren’t a bad standard and already bypass towns. So if you don’t mind driving a bit slower you can avoid the tolls. We’ve not been into Madrid or Barcelona yet, but so far tolled routes only seem to save about 5 mins per hour of driving.

Using the tolls is simple. Most toll roads appear to use a ticket system. Pull up to the barrier at the entry point and you get a ticket. When you leave, you feed the ticket in at the barrier and it tells you how much it’s cost you. Pop in a credit card and it takes the payment. The issue is the machines are all on the left side, so Joolz does toll payment duty.

Other Idiosyncrasies

I was a little surprised by the general driving style in Spain. As mentioned, most drivers completely ignore the speed limits until they see a ‘Radar’ speed trap. However, they seem to be very calm, pretty disciplined and suffer from very little road rage if you slow them down. Through winding and hilly sections and especially through roadworks, I’ve ended up with quite large trains of cars, vans, other motorhomes and even trucks stuck behind me. But they always wait until there’s a broken centre line to overtake, no matter how slow I’m going. Thankfully the roads are generally pretty empty and very open, so overtaking on the straights is normally pretty easy.

Roundabouts… After about 1000km of driving, I still have no idea how these work in Spain. There’s rarely an indication as to which lane you use for each exit. It appears you can go all the way around from the right lane and just cut people off. If you use the left lane to turn left, expect people to come scooting around the outside when you are trying to make your exit. And if you are approaching a roundabout and you see a car on the outside lane approaching an exit at speed, DO NOT assume they are about to take it.

Finally, you merge on to many older dual carriageways with a very sharp right hand bend leading into a very short slip road. With The Van being right hand drive vehicle and limited ‘over the shoulder’ view, these can be quite stressful. Apparently, if there is no room, you should just stop on the slip and wait for a gap. I’ve seen it happen, but I’ve not had to do it… yet.

Leave a Reply